Response to the government's announcement of the Williams Review

It’s time for bold reform of Britain’s railways.

The rail industry welcomes the Government’s independent Williams Review and stands ready to put everything on the table and follow the evidence, so that we can deliver more for passengers, employees, and the country.

After years of sticking plaster reforms, the rail industry has been calling for a full, independent review into the running of Britain’s railways so we can have a serious and frank examination of the challenges facing the network. It’s time for a generational change. Following the evidence, so the needs of passengers, taxpayers and the country are put first, above all else.

This week’s performance statistics and the findings of the interim report into May’s timetable disruption are further examples of why reform is needed. Progress on Britain’s railways is not keeping pace with high standards and innovation elsewhere in the economy.

That’s why we whole-heartedly welcome a review that focuses on all parts of the industry.

The independence of the chair means the panel can be bold in its review. If they are given the evidence they need and the remit to examine all the options – however difficult - their findings and recommendations will enable us to set the railway up for new successes.

A review needs to start by looking at how best to organise the railway to enable greater investment and innovation, and to better join up different parts of the industry so that they can focus on the needs of local communities and people who use the railway. Only then should the discussion focus on how to achieve the right balance between the public and private sectors in running the railway. 

The industry is ready to put everything on the table so that we deliver for our customers, employees, and the country. No topic should be off limits – franchising, fares, employee ownership, the relationship between the public and private sectors – if this review is serious about creating a railway fit for the future.

Change doesn’t worry us. Working together, we’ve been improving the railway for almost 25 years.

It’s why last year we launched our unified plan for change – public and private sectors working together, committing to do more for customers, communities, the economy and our people. And we’ve been making progress: this summer, 19,000 people across the country took part in the industry’s #easierfares consultation to inform proposals for how government could overhaul outdated regulations to make fare buying easier.

But many challenges remain and despite real progress, we know that the industry needs to do more, right now. A summer of difficulty following an ambitious revamp of timetabling - designed to bring about more services and greater reliability - exemplifies the problems faced by the industry after a decade of make-do-and-mend policy.

We are serious about creating a better railway.

A full-scale, root-and-branch review of the industry will turbo-charge reform and the delivery of the commitments we’ve already made to change and improve for the country. But the proof of this will be in the recommendations the review puts forward. It is crucial that the panel is given sufficient scope to consider all the options so we can reach the best solution for customers, the economy, communities and our employees.

Reforming the railway is an opportunity to show the country we are serious about creating a stronger, modern Britain that can stay ahead in the world. It is the only way to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime shake up of the rules that govern Britain’s railway. And the whole industry stands ready to play its part so that together, we can deliver the railway Britain deserves.

ENDS

A- A A+